Saturday, November 15, 2008

Water-Based Data Centers

Every once in a while, an idea comes along that combines breakthrough creativity with utter practicality. Google’s water-based data center is such an idea.

The problem: A huge cost in Google’s business is building and running data centers. An individual data center houses thousands of computers that together run Google’s services. Operating the computers requires a lot of power. Moreover, because many computers are packed tightly together, keeping them cool is a major issue.

The solution: Float a data center on an ocean ship. The power comes from converting tidal motion into energy. The cooling comes from sea water, pumped through. An undersea cable carries the data to shore. If that sounds good, also consider that the facility may not be subject to taxes or government regulation, depending on where the ship is positioned. Finally, the transportation world already has an infrastructure for moving standardized containers around. Thus, Google can build its data-center in containers-sized modules, truck them to a container port, and drop them on a ship.

Of course, implementing this idea will have many obstacles. Maybe it will never work because of devils in the details. Whatever the outcome, the idea itself deserves praise just for the ingenuity.

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